Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations

If you lost your loved one recently because of someone’s negligence or criminal conduct, life can be a minute-by-minute struggle. Just getting out of bed and taking care of your regular daily needs might be too much to handle. Thinking about filing a lawsuit can be the furthest thing from your mind, and you do not need any additional stress.

You don’t have to file a lawsuit against the potentially negligent party right away. But you do have to take legal action before the statute of limitations in your state expires. Understanding what the statute of limitations is for your state will help you understand what you need to do to receive justice and compensation.

Learn more about wrongful death claims today by speaking to an experienced wrongful death attorney in Tampa. Further, recognize that speaking with a wrongful death lawyer will not add stress to your situation. Instead, an attorney can relieve stress and give you peace of mind that a trusted professional is handling the legal process for you.

What Is Wrongful Death? 

Wrongful death is a civil lawsuit filed by close family members against the person or entity that negligently or knowingly caused a loved one’s death. You can file a wrongful death lawsuit against someone who is also facing prosecution for the same incident. Even if the person isn’t charged or found not guilty, you still can sue them for wrongful death and potentially receive compensation.

Every state has different rules for who can file a wrongful death lawsuit. In many states, the spouse, children, or parents can file the claim. In others, siblings and even grandparents can file the case. Some states require the estate’s executor or personal representative to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Your attorney can advise you who is eligible to file the wrongful death claim you are considering.

What Is A Statute Of Limitations? 

A statute of limitations is the maximum time you have to file a civil lawsuit after an injury or death. Most civil actions have a statute of limitations in effect in every state. You only have a certain amount of time to file a claim, or you can lose the right to sue and recover damages forever.

States have statutes of limitations for wrongful death claims so that people file when the evidence and memories are fresh. As the months and years pass, it is harder for people to prove what happened. It also is more difficult for defendants to present their side. Evidence disappears, and memories fade as time goes by. If there was no statute of limitations for civil claims, defendants can be sued for something that happened decades ago.

Wrongful Death Statute Of Limitations By State

Each state has different rules for its statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. It’s important to know your state’s rules in this critical matter. Below are the statutes of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits for various states. Talk to a wrongful death attorney in your area about how much time you have to file a claim:

  • Florida: Two years
  • California: Two years
  • Colorado: Two years
  • Tennessee: One year
  • Maryland: Three years
  • New York: Three years
  • Georgia: Two years
  • Texas: Two years
  • Ohio: Two years
  • New Jersey: Two years 
  • Nebraska: Four years
  • Nevada: Two years 
  • Virginia: Two years
Wrongful Death

Most states also have a similar statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, but the wrongful death statute of limitations can be different. Never assume you know how long you have, as there can be complexities in the law you might not know about.

Whether you understand the law or not, you must file your wrongful death lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. In most circumstances, the statute of limitations clock begins to run on the date of the person’s death. You only need to file the paperwork for the wrongful death lawsuit by the time the statute of limitations expires. But you should still have the case reviewed by an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Exceptions To The Wrongful Death Statute Of Limitations

If the statute of limitations expired already, do not assume that your chances of filing a claim are over. There are limited exceptions to the wrongful death statute of limitations in many states. Talk to your attorney about your state laws to determine if these exceptions apply.

Discovery Rule

This means that you and your family didn’t know that the death was because of someone’s negligence. Sometimes, family members do not realize the true cause of death for some time, and once they do, the true statute of limitations has passed. The law might grant an extension, but you will need to provide proof to the judge that you didn’t discover the death was due to negligence or a wrongful act until later.

Defective Product

If the person passed away because of a product defect, the statute of limitations might be extended, depending on the state. Some states extend the statute of limitations for up to 10 years if a product defect was to blame.

The Beneficiary Is A Minor

Suppose your parents died in a car accident because of a drunk driver when you were 14. In many states, the statute of limitations clock will not start until you reach the age of majority, which is usually 18. The court understands that you were a minor when the death occurred, so you may have additional time to file a wrongful death claim.

Also, if you were deemed mentally incapacitated when the person died, you may also be entitled to more time to file a claim. The statute of limitations clock will usually begin to run when you regain your mental capacity.

Suing A Government Agency 

If you sue a city or state government agency for your loved one’s death, a different statute of limitations can apply. In some cities and states, you might have only 90 days or six months to file a wrongful death claim. You should have your case reviewed immediately by an attorney if you think a government employee contributed to your relative’s death.

What Are Common Wrongful Death Accidents? 

Statute of Limitations

Wrongful death cases occur for many reasons. The most common accidents in these devastating cases are:

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Auto accidents are the most common cause of wrongful death lawsuits. There are more than 40,000 auto accident fatalities in the US in a typical year. Some are because another driver fell asleep, was distracted, intoxicated, or drove recklessly. You can receive compensation for your loved one’s death after a car accident if you can prove another driver or entity was negligent.

Some families can sue an employer for their employee’s actions that caused the death. For example, if a full-time delivery driver ran a red light and killed your husband, you may sue both the driver and their employer for your losses.

Jobs with a higher risk, such as roofers and construction workers, have a higher rate of employee deaths. But a fatal injury can occur in an office or virtually any workplace. The family might be entitled to death benefits from the state workers’ compensation system. Or, in some cases, it might be possible to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the employer or a liable third party.

Premises Liability Accidents

Property owners, including businesses and homeowners, must ensure their premises are safe and free from hazards that can injure or kill guests. Unfortunately, people suffer serious and fatal injuries in premises liability accidents every year. Many of these accidents are slip and fall incidents in businesses, and drownings in pools are especially common for homeowners.

Pedestrian Accidents

Auto accidents involving pedestrians often lead to severe injury and death. Driver negligence usually causes most pedestrian accidents, depending on the situation. If your loved one was in a crosswalk and hit and killed by a driver, you can have a strong wrongful death claim.

Animal Attacks

Every year, thousands of Americans suffer an injury or die in dog attacks. About 20 percent of animal attacks require medical attention, and minors and older adults are at the highest risk of serious injury or death.

Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle crashes are more deadly than most motor vehicle crashes because the rider is vulnerable to the environment. Thousands of motorcyclists are killed annually in the US, and some of the accidents are because of another driver’s error.

Defective Products

If a loved one dies because of a product defect, the manufacturer or retailer can be held responsible. Product liability means that manufacturers usually spend a lot of time and money testing products to ensure they are safe. Common examples of product liability wrongful death claims involve foods, cars, pharmaceuticals, toys, and medical devices.

Common Wrongful Death Myths

Wrongful Death Lawsuit

There are many online myths about wrongful death claims. Some of the most common ones follow:

Myth 1: You Can File A Wrongful Death Claim Anytime

Not true. You only have a limited time based on your state’s statute of limitations. You might have only two or three years to file your wrongful death claim. The clock usually starts to run on the date of death, but exceptions exist.

Myth 2: You Can Only File A Wrongful Death Claim For Medical Malpractice

You can file a wrongful death claim for almost any accident where another person’s negligence caused the death. Common accidents that lead to these lawsuits are auto accidents, falls, job-related accidents, product liability cases, and many more.

Myth 3: You Can Only Receive Burial Expenses 

Many devastated family members may not know that they are eligible for substantial compensation for the loss of their loved one. Common compensation includes medical and burial costs, lost inheritance, lost future income, pain and suffering of the deceased, mental suffering and emotional anguish, and loss of consortium and family services.

Myth 4: A Criminal Case Is Necessary For You To Receive Compensation 

A wrongful death claim and any criminal case related to the same incident are separate. The criminal court plays no part in any civil lawsuit you file against the defendant. For example, if your loved one died because of a fatigued driver, the at-fault party may or may not be criminally charged and convicted of manslaughter or murder.

Regardless of the criminal side of things, you still can file a wrongful death lawsuit if you have sufficient proof that the defendant caused your family member’s death. It is possible for the defendant to never face charges or be found not guilty in a criminal case yet be liable for a person’s death in a wrongful death claim.

Summary of Wrongful Death Statutes of Limitations

James Holliday
James Holliday, Wrongful Death Lawyer in Tampa

You can be eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit if you can prove that the defendant's negligence or wrongful act caused your loved one’s death. If proven, you can receive compensation for medical and funeral bills, lost future income of the deceased, pain and suffering, loss of benefits, loss of inheritance, and money for mental and emotional anguish.

Every state has a strict statute of limitations laws for filing a wrongful death lawsuit. Many states have a two-year statute of limitations from the date of death, but other state’s rules are different. Talk to a wrongful death attorney promptly to learn if you have a case and when to file with the appropriate court. Most attorneys don’t charge for the initial consultation, and there are usually no out-of-pocket legal expenses.

Speak To A Wrongful Death Lawyer Now 

If you lost your loved one in an accident through no fault of their own, it’s a devastating tragedy in your life. You may not know how to keep going every day without your loved one. In addition to the emotional loss, you also may face great financial uncertainty if the deceased was a breadwinner for the household.

A wrongful death lawsuit can bring much-needed financial relief and a sense of closure to your situation. If another person or entity caused the death, you can receive compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. Speak to a wrongful death attorney today for a complimentary consultation about your case.

Schedule a Free Initial Consultation Today!

James Wayne Holliday Author Image

James Wayne Holliday

James Wayne Holliday has been practicing law since 1995. He has been named as a “Best Attorney” Lifetime Charter Member in Florida, an honor awarded to less than one percent of the nation’s lawyers.

Mr. Holliday has earned a reputation as a relentless trial lawyer because of his outstanding work ethic and thorough preparation of his cases for trial.

Author's Bio


Book a Free Consultation